Sustainability Code 5. Park Carefully and Considerately

Park Carefully and Considerately

Nature on our doorstep

Immersing yourself in nature on a kayak trip doesn’t just begin on the water. It can start before you even unload your gear. Pause for a moment and look at the edges of the parking areas in Tragumna, Courtmacsherry, or wherever you’re setting out from in West Cork. You’ll be surprised at the bounty that’s there, wildflowers, native grasses, and insects that depend on these plants, all part of the rich diversity of life.
Listen for the hum of activity from bees and hoverflies as they extract nectar from, and pollinate, wildflowers. Irish insects and invertebrates have evolved with our native flora for over 10,000 years and are in sync with each other. Hibernating insects such as queen bumblebees only emerge in spring when sources of nectar, such as willow and dandelions, are available. Some bees and other insects have long tongues (proboscises), the garden bumblebee’s (Bombus hortorum) is 15mm in length, meaning that it can extract pollen and nectar from the long tubes of flowers such as the nativered clover. Other bee species, such as mining bees, have much shorter tongues (4 – 5mm), so need more open flowers like ox-eye daisies.


To be sure, the flowers of some native plants are inconspicuous (see plantains below) and may not be so appealing to humans, but that’s not their job. Perhaps it’s why seed packets of brightly coloured so called ‘wildflower’ mixes are popular, like sweets in a shop, but these packets can contain ornamental plants from other countries. They might draw pollinators to them, but plants don’t just provide nectar to insects, they’re also a food source for the larval stages of some insects, like butterflies and moths, and each species favours particular native plants. It is not only flowering plants which are desirable to moth and butterfly caterpillars, but also native grasses. Some caterpillars spend the winter on their preferred grass species, often at the foot of a clump.


Bird’s-foot trefoil is a common coastal plant on sand dunes and short grassland, you’ll see it flowering in summer at Tragumna and Courtmacsherry. And wherever you see the trefoil, a common blue butterfly won’t be far away. The trefoil is an important food plant for caterpillars of the common blue.


A bit about moths
While butterflies are usually recognised more readily than moths, both belong to the Lepidoptera order of insects and are important indicators of the health of our natural environment and the effects of climate change.
All butterflies are day flying, but some moths also fly during the day, you might have seen the six-spot burnet moth feeding on thistles, knapweed, and other plants at the coast. In Ireland there are 35 butterfly species, 32 that are resident year-round and three migrant species. In contrast, there are approximately 1,500 species of moth here! And they’re not all tiny, brown, clothes-eating species, in fact only four species of moth nibble your textiles. Some moths are as intricately patterned and as colourful as butterflies. Moths can mimic pieces of twig, dead leaves, tree bark, and lichens, their variation is almost endless.


A 20-minute survey of the Skibbereen Eagle car park in early May found almost 30 plant species there, not including grasses, and more will emerge throughout the year.
Treasure these places, we’ve lost so much biodiversity in the last few decades. Learn even a little about what’s around you, and care for it. Let’s have pride in where we live.

Plant list:

Bluebell  Broad-leaved Dock Greater Plantain
Bracken Curled Dock Ribwort Plantain
Creeping Buttercup Gorse Primrose
Cat's Ear Field Horsetail Common Reed
Red Clover Knapweed Common Sorrel
Daisy Sticky Mouse Ear Kidney Vetch
Dandelion Buck's Horn Plantain Common Dog Violet